Governor Could Be Called To Testify For Defense, CBS2 Has Learned

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo could be called to testify as a defense witness in the federal corruption case against one of his top aides.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, it came as something of a surprise when Cuomo admitted he met with federal prosecutors to talk about the corruption case involving his longtime aide, Joseph Percoco.

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Cuomo has described Percoco as being like a brother and like the third son of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

EXTRA: Percoco Complaint

“It was in preparation for Joe’s case; in preparation for the case they were indicting against the nine defendants,” Cuomo said.

The interview, Cuomo said, involved the complex case against Percoco, his executive deputy secretary, along with eight others. The case involved two separate, but overlapping schemes involving bribery, influence peddling, and bid rigging of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of state contracts.

Cuomo said he does not expect to be called as a witness by federal prosecutors. But CBS2 has learned he could very well be called by Percoco’s defense team.

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“We are considering any and all options in our defense of Mr. Percoco,” said defense attorney Barry Bohrer, “and we have ruled out nothing at this point. I would think that the governor has exculpatory evidence to offer on Mr. Percoco’s behalf, as Joe is innocent.”

Percoco has pleaded not guilty to charges of accepting more than $300,000 in bribes. Prosecutors said he took a page from “The Sopranos” and used the code word “ziti” to refer to the bribes.

According to the federal complaint, Percoco took $322,000 in bribes from 2012 through 2016 to Syracuse-based COR Development and Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company looking to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley. Todd Howe, a consultant for the two companies and former Cuomo associate, set up bank accounts and a shell company to funnel bribes, including payments to Percoco’s wife, Lisa, the complaint said.

The complaint says Howe pleaded guilty to several federal charges, including conspiracy to commit fraud, extortion, bribery and wire and tax fraud. He is now cooperating with federal authorities.

Also charged in the complaint are two executives at COR Development — Steven Aiello and Joseph Girardi — and three executives at LPCiminelli: Michael Laipple, Kevin Schuler and chief executive officer Louis Ciminelli, as well as Alain Kaloyeros, former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

The charges stem from a federal investigation into the Buffalo Billion project, as well as Nano, an initiative effectively led by Kaloyeros that aimed to bring high-tech jobs to the upstate. The federal probe revealed a web of individuals and businesses tied to Cuomo that stand to make millions from the projects.

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A trial date has not been set because prosecutors said they have over 2 million pages of evidence. Defense attorneys said they need time to sift through it all.